“We have to take turns speaking or else the transcript will look like alphabet soup.”~ One of the most considerate lawyers I’ve ever worked with!
This past week, I had a real doozy of a week as a (still) newbie court reporter. I was originally only scheduled for two jobs this week, so I thought, hey, this is going to be a great week — I can do some work, take on a transcription file on the side, and get in some relaxing time (i.e. food blogging, catching up/stenoing to my much-ignored YouTube subscriptions, and settling into my warm spot at the computer while snow is billowing outside in -20 degree weather). Alas, this week blew me out of the water in terms of what I was expecting. It’s a good thing though. Court reporting is unexpected and it really kept me on my toes.
Monday started off with a PMC at the Law Society of Upper Canada. I’ve never covered a Proceedings Management Conference before, so I sought out the helpful advice and guidance of my fellow court reporter friends to get an idea of what to expect. I am so glad that I have friends that I look up to and can seek advice from. In this way, I was able to stay calm even when there were multiple speakers in the room going at break-neck speeds since they were covering 10 proceedings in the matter of an hour-ish. It wasn’t as scary as I thought. It took place at the first floor hearing room. I still remember when I was job shadowing — it seems like such a long time ago now — and one of my first job shadowing sessions was in that very room. I remember sitting at the back in the public gallery trying to keep up and figuring out what was going on. It’s cool to see that I’m now the person in the room who is officially responsible for taking down the record! Yay…! =)
Unexpectedly, the second job that I was supposed to be on for Tuesday this week — which had a high possibility of being a full day job (I’ve yet to sit for more than 3 hours) — got cancelled. But in court reporting, just as another job is cancelled at the drop of a hat, I also got put on a job immediately for Wednesday. Sure, I said! I can do it. I really didn’t know what was going to hit me for the rest of the week at that point still.
Fast forward to the freshly scheduled Wednesday’s job that was supposed to be a full day, but ended up to be a 3-hour job… and for very good reasons too! It wasn’t until an hour into the job that one of the counsel members off-handedly mentioned to me, “Oh, you know that this transcript is going to be expedited. Right?” My eyes must have bulged out of my head. “Expedite? No… I didn’t know…” They wanted the transcript as soon as possible. A rough draft. After already a lightning speed one-hour testimony where the witness also spoke softly with an accent. With dense material. Uh, oh. How am I going to do this? I quickly shot an e-mail off for some help and luckily I was provided with it. Thank goodness! (Seriously, I am SO thankful for it.) Needless to say, I had very little sleep that night. And wait, that’s not all. During the middle of the day, pretty much as soon as this job was finished, I was asked to complete two more jobs for Thursday and Friday. I agreed. (!)… Call me crazy but I said yes.
There’s not much to generalize about in the past two days because it was really crazy and I was working under very little sleep. I have to thank my lucky stars that both Thursday and Friday’s cross-examinations were relatively short — only 3 and 2 hours respectively. I was lucky on Thursday to have a counsel member who spoke very, very slowly. Yes! I was very happy about that and found my realtime notes appear every so often on the screen. He did speed up towards the end, but this “he” that I mention is also the very considerate lawyer that I quoted at the start of this blog entry. Isn’t he so nice? It’s pretty amazing how considerate he was. This was not on the official transcript — as he asked me to go off the record for this — but he actually turned to me and said something along the lines of (after looking at his watch), “it’s now an hour and a half into the proceeding and I know that court reporters generally need a break at this point in time, do you need a break/are you okay?” I was very taken back. This rarely gets asked!! He also referred me to being the one working the hardest in the room so it was fine if they took a break. As a matter of fact, because I was so pleased with my realtime screen, I didn’t even know that it was past the hour and a half mark, so I graciously declined his polite invitation and offered that we continue onwards. I think the opposing counsel member wanted a break during this opportune time, but we kept at it for a bit more until the cold-suffering witness wanted to go to the restroom. Anyway, this was a highlight. 🙂
Friday’s cross-examination was another short one and also involved the very respectful lawyer. Unfortunately, probably from being on less on two hours of sleep, I found him speak a lot faster than on Thursday. I was very much looking forward to a slow day again. Nevertheless, we finished before noon and I quickly ran home to work on the transcripts.. Rough drafts.
Gah! I can’t believe how insane this week was. It was almost epic. Essentially, there were three roughs and all three days were expedited. All in a row! There is still so much more I need to learn in regards to transcript production and editing faster. Any court reporters out there reading this who can give me some tips and tricks of the trade? For any students that are reading this, yes, it’s worth it — keep practising and have those fingers fly with precision. Despite the craziness this week, I really enjoyed listening to all the witnesses’ testimonies. It was a peek into another individual’s life that I previously knew nothing about. It’s definitely interesting and every single job is different. “Stay cool” is all I have to say in such situations. That is… unless you’re suffering from the minus double digits this winter, then do remember to put on an extra layer. =o)